Ibn Battuta is a symbol of peace and tolerance this is why we chose this personality and called the International Festival of Ibn Battuta a festival of peace and tolerance, said Mohamed Dekkak, Honorary President of the Ibn Battuta Association, in an exclusive interview with Middle East Online.
The Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta is known as the greatest traveller of premodern times. He lived in the 14th century. Leaving his homeland at the age of 21 to make the holy pilgrimage to Mecca, he performed a series of extraordinary journeys that spanned nearly three decades and took him as far away as India and China.
“The second edition of the international Festival of Ibn Battuta is an occasion of research, creativity and interaction,” said Dekkak during the opening ceremony of the festival which is held November 9-12 in the northern Moroccan city of Tangier.
This second edition of the festival titled “Travellers, Ambassadors of Peace,” This year’s edition kickstarted in a carnival atmosphere with a parade on Tangier’s main boulevard.
It depicts a rich programme including several theatrical plays, a painting exhibition, conferences, music concerts and fashion shows.
This year’s festival was the fruit of volunteers who came all over the world including Philippines.
“I had the idea to organise the festival on a volunteering basis since civil societies have been complaining that the festivals are mainly run by the elite and companies, which hampers the integration of the youth in them,” said Dekkak.
Ibn Battuta Association debated the idea with many associations in Tangier, which culminated in singing agreements with them and drawing a sizeable number of youngsters from different areas of Tangier to volunteer in the festival.
“One of the main catalysts that convinced the youth to volunteer in the festival is when they found out that most of the artists and singers were also volunteering to take part in the festival,” said Dekkak.
“We are trying to instill the culture of volunteering in those youngsters who are full of hope and talent and who need to be led by example,” he added.
Filipino Mark Jameson, is one of the foreign organisers, said that this was the first time he joined a festival on a voluntary basis.
“I’m very overwhelmed. It is so exciting to see different culture gather here,” said Jameson.
Dekkak said that the festival also aims to fight the poisonous ideologies among the youth and help them build a protective wall against them as well as empowering them in order to be able to organise a festival in the future
This festival is in line with King Mohammed VI’s speech to mark the 15th anniversary of his ascendance to the throne during which he emphasised the importance of intangible capital.
“Tangier could be one of the richest countries thanks to its richness in terms of intangible capital,” said Dekkak.
“The festival came a few days after the World Bank issued a report about Morocco’s intangible capital which proves that our King has a futuristic vision, which if it is applied, could make Morocco one of the most successful tourist destinations,” he stressed.
The World Bank report called on Morocco to refocus its public policy priorities on the development of its intangible capital in order to adjust its development strategy and improve the governance of its sectoral policies.
Dekkak said that his association was thinking of moving the festival to different cities in the future in order to share the Great Traveller’s thrilling journeys with all Moroccans.
“I think the era of marketing Morocco through videos depicting its landscape and hotels is over. We need to invent new ways of marketing our country through cultural projects to reach people’s hearts and minds,” said Dekkak, citing the example of a British man who fell in love with Tangier after he attended the festival.
Dekkak said that their dream was to make a boat and sail from one city to another to retrace Ibn Battuta’s footsteps, promote Morocco’s cultural heritage and tourism and highlight the country’s intangible capital
“It’s a big dream for a small association. I think it can be achieved as we managed to realise the festival’s dream,” he concluded.